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How deep does it go?


On the phone today that’s about the best way I could describe South America to my friend who lives in Thailand. He’s seeing it there too; the King is tossing out and making moves that to many people there, look like he is taking a stronger autocratic position than his father did.

As for South America, between Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador (which is not yet out of the woods) and let’s not forget, Venezuela, there seems to be discontent throughout the continent.

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It’s kind of scary. It’s like we are in the middle of a powder keg that might explode like the “Arab Spring” did a few years ago. Remember how quickly that caught fire? It seemed like overnight peaceful protests turned to violent and there was no telling what the final shape of things would be.

Protesters set rubble on fire in a street in Santiago, Chile.

Here, it reminds me of when I was young and there were lots of problems in Central America. Nicaragua and Panama come to mind. But there were also serious problems in El Salvador and Honduras. The memories of all that don’t cause any reaction in me, because those events were so far removed from my life. They didn’t seem to make much difference to us. In fact, probably the sharpest memory I have of those events is the way the U.S. worked to get Noriega out of the building he had barricaded himself into. They played loud rock music day and night until he cracked. It was rather amusing.

But now, we are in the middle of all this and it isn’t amusing. It’s serious. People are dying for causes that seem to be nebulous. I don’t see solid lines of outrage, but rather blurred arguments about why this government, or that one, are not supporting their people.

Take Chile for example. Just a few weeks ago, Chile seemed like it was an ideal place to go visit. Like everything was fine and people weren’t angry at their government like they were here at the time. But what it looks like now is that Ecuador was a spark that lit the match there. Like the people there only needed to see how the world reacted to Ecuador’s protests, and once they saw the support for the indigenous, they realized they could get world-wide support as well.

Now, I’m not a “Deep State” guy. I don’t buy into all of that. But we did see that there were protestors here in Ecuador that were being paid by people from Correa’s “Citizen Revolution Movement” (who are now hiding out in the Mexican embassy).

And lo and behold, this week a protester died in Chile who was actually a 26-year-old Ecuadorian. Why was he there? Did he show up in Chile after the protests here were over? I don’t know the answers to those questions (I’ve read all the news reports, but there is very little information available), and I may be making connections that don’t exist. But doesn’t it all sound a little fishy? That maybe, just maybe, some of these protestors are being paid to cause disturbances anywhere there is unrest. That in fact they are the matches that are lighting the fires all throughout South America?

Maybe this is something that goes deeper than Correa. Maybe as some online have suggested there is a US component to this (though I don’t personally believe that—US foreign policy is so screwed up right now I doubt this would be something in the hopper).

Anyway, regardless of all that, it is disconcerting to see this unrest rippling across the continent. I realize that South America and Central America have been hotbeds for political unrest for decades. But it seems now that there is so much of it coming to a boil at the same time.

Maybe it’s just a sign of the times we live in now. With social media and the internet, protesters can be called to unite in a moment’s notice. Clashes can flare up and grow while people are live streaming the action. Information used to travel slow, people had to organize days or weeks in advance to launch protest. Now, in minutes plans are made and executed.

Add to that the concepts of indigenous rights, economic imbalance, resource exploitation and you’ve got a situation where hundreds of thousands of people feel they are not being treated fairly and are not being represented in their own countries.

And then you have a powder keg. With only one way to douse the match that will light it. The people have to be listened to and their complaints have to be heard with respect. Because the underprivileged will no longer just accept trinkets to placate them. They also won’t let the politicians off the hook once peace is negotiated. They are watching and waiting to see what the response to their complaints is. And if it’s not what they want, they’ll come back again to threaten the stability of any country.

And keep in mind, no country is immune to this. Because it’s not a “Socialist” thing. It’s human nature. And the times “they are a changing.”

8 thoughts on “How deep does it go?

  1. I wouldn’t call it “human nature”. Human frustration and rage is far more accurate. Governments and our systems are pathetic and dysfunctional, no matter what you call them. They don’t deliver what is vitally necessary. The systems don’t work, are not just and are getting rapidly worse, and yet we are told to look at personalities rather than what’s really broken. So people, everywhere, are demonstrating. That is VERY healthy, as I cannot think of a single western government that can modify itself anymore. Either the population changes what we got, or the future is glum.

    Being angry and frightened can be the thing that unites us. Disunity is akin to paralysis.

    1. All is not bad and I keep asking the same question: What exactly do you want to change and by which means?

      Just coming from a book presentation (“Alternatives in a World of Crisis”) here in Cuenca yesterday, I went home thinking “Could it really be that, (as one student put it), the solution is to get rid of capitalism” (funnily, some of the students that want to get rid of it are the ones with the latest iPhone model)? What is he going to replace it with once the class war has been won?

      The authors of the book (which, admittedly, in a day, I have not read yet) seem to propose that a return to collectivism/socialism is the answer, “alternatives” that have utterly failed the test of history but keep coming back time after time in Latin America. One of the panelists even tried, seriously, to justify and defend the economic model of Chavez´ Venezuela. Capitalism (and democracy) may not be the ultimate answer but, for all of its flaws – and there are many – has lifted more people out of poverty than any other economic or social model. In the absence of sensible alternatives (Clinton´s/Blair´s Third Way, anyone?), I will choose it over those alternatives any day.

  2. The problem is that people don’t take responsibility for their circumstances and betterment and have learned that the only way to get ahead is not from hard work, but from taking from others, whether through force, voting, or welfare subsidies.

    1. A case in point is the new “economic proposal” CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador) handed the government today.

    2. Agree. Incentives matter. Governments should focus on making opportunity more equal, not making outcomes more equal. Extinguishing incentives to be the best one can be leads to a race to the bottom; a dismal sea of mediocrity. “Socialism is a philosophy of failure”, as Winston Churchill once said.

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